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Valerie Munro's forum posts

Total number of forum posts: 139

crimson bottlebrush 'Splendens'

from Valerie Munro

These are wonderful plants that are perhaps not as tough as they look! We have just come through one of the coldest winters in 30 years, and if your garden is anything like mine, the plants have taken a hammering.

I think that I would leave both of them un-pruned, to minimise their level of stress. But do make sure that you feed them with a slow release granular fertilizer (Westland Feed All is my favourite as the NPK ratios are perfect, or Top Rose if you cannot find the former). I think this is a better feeding programme than using a liquid fertilizer.

I am wondering if your idea of 'tatty' is because your plants are still hanging onto the their faded flowering stems? These woody knobbles are in fact seed capsules, and IMHO add to the overall interest of the plant. By leaving these on, the stem grows on beyond the inflorescence to produce further stem, leaf and, eventually, flowers.

Good luck, and here's hoping that your plants will thrill you with some fantastic flowering very soon!

Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Tue. 30th March 2010 09:48

can someone identify this plant

from Valerie Munro

Hi Luciana

When trying to establish a specific name for a mystery plant, I work on the theory that if it looks very like something, then it is probably closely related to it.

It certainly does look like a bergenia, and judging from the size of the foot also pictured, either the foot is very small or the leaves are indeed very large!

There is, in fact, a plant called Bergenia x Eden's Magic Giant which looks very like your plant. However, like all rather shakey identifications, the clincher clue will lie in the size, shape and colour of the flower.

Unfortunately, it is not growing in your garden so you do not have automatic visiting rights on it, and so no chance of photographing the flower when it appears. However, if you can tell me roughly where in Great Dixter the plant it to be found, as I am unable to completely solve the mystery, as they say, 'I know a man who can...'

If you can give me this clue, I will follow up the trail for you.

Talk soon
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Sat. 20th March 2010 20:02

pruning a paulonia

from Valerie Munro

Are you growing your paulownia for its foliage effect, or do you wish to enjoy the flowers? This is an important question to answer, as it will affect the timing of your pruning.

If it is for its luxuriant tropical-like leaves, then hard pruning should be done in early spring (and here the weather has been so awful, it is going to be difficult to predict the best possible time!). The issue is that the stems are hollow, and if hit by cold and wet weather, then they will succumb. Spring pruning involves cutting the stems down to within 5-8cm (2-3in) of ground level in the spring, just before the growth begins.

Paulownias are also better planted in a sunny spot where the wood has a better chance to ripen for flower buds than in a damp shady area.

If you are growing it for flowers, then the best time to prune it is immediately after flowering, so the plant has sufficient time during the summer months to develop new wood and set its flower buds before the dormant period in the winter. The flowers appear before the leaves.

Whichever effect you are aspiring to, you should feed and water the plant well after pruning. This will help it recover from the shock of surgery! I always recommend slow release granules, and the one that I use most is Westland Feed All which has a good potassium input in its NPK ratio. Failing that, Top Rose is another good one!

So the choice is yours - flowers and small leaves, or no flowers and big showy leaves - and prune accordingly!

Good luck
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Tue. 9th March 2010 11:53

Is that really a Convolvulus sabatius

from Valerie Munro

Hi Heba

From your photograph, your plant is clearly a convolvulus as it has those classic shallow funnel-shaped flowers. Convolvulus has a range of species - some are annuals and others perennial. C. sabatius is a trailing, slender stemmed woody based perennial that produces masses of pale to deep lavender flowers.

So, without being able to get up close and examine the state of the stems at the base of the plant, I think you could declare, fairly confidently, that it is C. sabatius!

In the past, it has had another name - C. mauritanicus,

Good luck!
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Thu. 4th March 2010 10:17

Phormium with redy brown leaves

from Valerie Munro

Hi Sheila

My first response is - do not worry! Phormium is a really tough plant, and although it is looking rather bedraggled, a lot of our plants in the garden have just succumbed to the effects of the worst winter we've had in 30 years, turned black and fallen over,

If you look carefully at your plant, you will see that it grows in a fan shape, with the new leaves appearing from the centre of this 'fan'. The older outside leaves do not live forever, and need to be removed from time to time.

I suggest that you catch hold of one of these old leaves, move your hand down as low as possible towards the base, and cut it off with a diagonal slant at the lowest point, taking care not to damage the leaf next to it. Cutting these old leaves only half way down will look unsightly. Do the same on the other side, to balance the plant. You will probably reduce the size of the plant considerably, but it will respond by producing some wonderful new leaves from the centre.

Don't forget to feed it after its haircut. Good luck!
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Thu. 4th March 2010 10:09

My allotment

from Valerie Munro

Hi Andrea and Kay

My husband has an allotment, and don't tell him that I am saying this to you, but he is a very busy man, and really doesn't have much time to spare and so is always trying to do things at speed.

I really do believe that the absolute secret of a good allotment is that the time that you spend in preparing before you plant anything. Any time spent doing this will be well worth the effort. You say that your allotment 'is only little' - you might change your mind on this one as you start to dig it over and get rid of unwanted vegetation!

If the thought of getting the whole plot into production immediately is too daunting, then cover over half of it with weighted down carpet, plastic sheeting or cardboard and work with the other half. When you are ready, you can then concentrate on this part.

There are some fantastic allotment guidance books around. I can thoroughly recommend one that's been written by four allotment gardeners (do-ers rather than thinkers) who have been getting their collective hands dirty for more than 75 years.

It's called The RHS Allotment Handbook, and although cover priced at £16.99, I got my copy through Amazon for £11.99.

Good luck!
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Sun. 28th February 2010 13:41

Fruit trees

from Valerie Munro

Hi Andrea and Kay

I bought some small fruit trees for my daughter in law last year, and I agree it is exciting stuff to see the plants coming to life.

I do agree that we appear to get something of a bargain from buying plants online, compared with the local garden centre but here is the word of caution. The plants will only be as good as the care and attention that they are given up to and included in the delivery to you.

Your photograph looks as if your plants are already in pots. Were they delivered that way?

The main difficulty arises when you buy a bare-root tree - as is sounds, there will be no soil protecting the roots. The worst thing that can happen to a plant that is delivered in this way it is that the roots run a very high risk of drying out. You may not see it at the time, but a dried out plant will have a struggle to establish, and may never make it!

Garden centre fruit trees will be in pots, will have been fed and watered regularly, and this is what you are paying for. Should a plant fail, the first thing you do is to march back to the shop and demand (as is your right) a replacement plant.

If you have found an online nursery that will deliver you a good plant, with its roots suitably wrapped up, (or better still already in a pot) together with clear and immediate care instructions, that's brilliant! I wish that all online suppliers were the same!

God luck!
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Sun. 28th February 2010 13:29

Ligustrum lucidum

from Valerie Munro

Hi Paul,

I agree with all of Katy's suggestions for plants that are famous for withstanding seaside conditions. The northerly winds sound pretty hostile, but in fact it is the salt that does the damage.

All of Katy's plants have extremely thick and leathery leaves. For added interest and colour, you could also mix in some more seasonal plants:

- Rosa rugosa
- sea buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides
- and good old Fuchsia magellanica.

these will give you interesting flowers and autumn berries into the bargain.

Good luck!
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Sun. 28th February 2010 13:14

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

from Valerie Munro

Hi Margaret,

I realize that as gardeners we must heed the advice of those who know more than we do, but we must at the same time apply some common sense in what we plant and where.

You talk of your intended site for the hornbeam hedge as being prone to water-logging. Here the problem for plants is that in a boggy soil, the roots are starved of the oxygen that they need. Some plants will be able to handle this better than others - alder, birch, some hawthorn cultivars, etc and all willows. Hornbeam is not a classis bog-buster in this context.

There is another thought that we nanny our plants too much in our gardens. In the wild, plants have a choice, survive or not and some will put up with the most amazing hardships that our gardening books would never prescribe! If you can do something to help with the drainage of your soil then I would say go ahead. You could mix sharp sand into the planting hole/s. But, the boggier the soil, the more you will have to do and in an extreme case you may have to think about putting down some form of soak-a-way drain.

A pleached hedge is definitely a joy to behold, but it will take some years to achieve. If you are looking for a more instant screen have you considered exploiting some of our speedier climbing plants? As a suggestion, Clematis armandii will give you fragrant blossom early in the year, and yet keep its leaves all year round. You could mix this in with some other honeysuckle and/or another later flowering clematis.

You could of course do both, and use the trellis screen as a temporary measure with the line of hornbeams planted in front of them. When your pleached hedge has reached its desired height, you can then remove the screen behind it.

Good luck!
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Sun. 28th February 2010 13:02